Candidates’ political philosophies influence role of judiciary in Ohio

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page B1

COLUMBUS — Both candidates in the race for chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court say it’s easy to tell the differences between their judicial philosophies.

They just don’t agree on how best to spin them.

Thomas Moyer, the incumbent Republican, says he shows restraint on the bench, willing to follow the will of the General Assembly in most cases, and not using the immense power of the court too often.

Gary Tyack, the Democratic challenger, says that means his opponent doesn’t do enough to fight for the little guy.

Mr. Moyer, of Bexley, first elected chief justice in 1986, is seeking a third term. Mr. Tyack, who lives in Columbus, is a judge on the 10th District Court of Appeals, based in the capital.

The two disagree on how active the court should be in forming or evaluating state policy.

“I think he sees the role as simply writing the law the way the judge thinks it should be written,” Mr. Moyer said. “The problem is, where does it stop?”

The chief justice said that, except in very rare cases, he opposes overturning laws passed by the General Assembly because “they’re an expression of public will.”

The most obvious example of Mr. Moyer’s judicial philosophy is his dissent last year in DeRolph v. Ohio, the case that declared the state’s school-fund system unconstitutional and ordered sweeping changes.

The chief justice, on the losing end of a 4-3 decision, wrote that the court had no business ordering such a complete overhaul.

“As an application of my philosophy, I don’t believe I’ve written anything better,” Mr. Moyer said. “The [school-fund] system is far from perfect, but it was an expression of judicial restraint.”

Mr. Tyack, in contrast, has said Mr. Moyer’s dissent showed a lack of leadership on an issue critical to the state’s future.

He said that Mr. Moyer’s judicial conservatism has led him to side too often with big business. According to Ohio Chamber of Commerce ratings, Mr. Moyer sides with business 77 per cent of the time in workers’ compensation cases, the highest ratio on the court. He also sides with insurance companies 79 per cent of the time.

“I think, `What does this do to the person who has been injured or hurt,”‘ Mr. Tyack said. “Justice Moyer thinks, `How does this im pact a large group, an insurance company, or a big business?”‘

The challenger is also making an issue of the significant tension the court has seen in the 1990s, as its two dominant personalities – Mr. Moyer and Justice Andy Douglas of Toledo – have feuded on a variety of issues.

The turmoil peaked earlier this year, when Mr. Douglas blamed the heart attack he suffered on the stress Mr. Moyer put him under.

“People in Toledo know just how bad the interpersonal relations have been,” Mr. Tyack said. “[Mr. Moyer] has engaged in a whole series of negative comments about Justice Douglas. They each complain about each other.”

But Mr. Moyer, while acknowledging the “strong personal differences,” said the battles do not affect the court’s work.

“I cannot think of a time when someone voted on a case because of personal feelings about a justice,” Mr. Moyer said.

“Six of us, I know, are very committed to a collegial atmosphere. I cannot speak for Justice Douglas on that issue.”

Fisher, Taft talk of aid to youths; Differences in policy shown

By Joshua Benton and James Drew
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 3

COLUMBUS — Democrat Lee Fisher announced yesterday that, if elected governor, he would support creating a tax credit for “working poor” families. His Republican opponent, Bob Taft, sidestepped the issue, saying the state faces several “tough priorities.”

As election day looms seven weeks away, the two gubernatorial candidates revealed their plans for protecting the state’s children yesterday at a forum sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio.

The event was held a month after the nonprofit group released a 34-page report calling on the gubernatorial candidates to improve the lives of children from low-income and “working poor” families.

A federal tax credit adopted in 1975 offsets regressive Social Security, local, and state taxes, and adds to the earnings of low-wage workers.

A state credit equal to 10 per cent of the federal credit would reduce the state tax bill of more than 600,000 families by an average of $132 a year, said Mr. Fisher, a former attorney general. For some, the savings would reach $365 per year, he added.

“If you can target the tax cut to working families, that’s the way to go. It’s focused on those who need it most,” Mr. Fisher said.

Mr. Fisher said the cost of the tax credit would be about $80 million a year, which he said would come from other sources in the budget – not higher taxes on wealthier Ohioans. Over time, he would like to double the credit to 20 per cent of its federal equivalent, but only if the state budget allows it.

Mr. Taft did not give a point-blank “no” to the audience when asked if he would support starting a state earned-income tax credit.

“It’s a question of priorities. It’s something we have to address together as a state and a community,” Mr. Taft said.

Meeting with reporters after the forum, Mr. Taft referred to a state version of the federal tax credit as an “expensive program” at a time when the state is struggling to find funds to subsidize child care for lower-income families and health insurance for poor children.

“I don’t think it’s timely now for me to endorse a proposal that at 20 per cent of the federal credit would cost $150 million a year,” he said.

Mr. Taft said one of his major goals is that every child be able to read by the end of fourth grade. He has proposed setting aside $25 million a year for a program he’s calling OhioReads.

Mr. Fisher received a thunderous reception, including two standing ovations, from an estimated 300 people at the forum. The audience interrupted his speech more than a dozen times with applause, including when Mr. Fisher recounted what he considers his accomplishments for children during his four-year term as attorney general and in the state Senate.

Among other proposals Mr. Fisher made were making more families eligible for day-care assistance and child health-care coverage; toughening child support collections, and increasing education on child safety issues.

An hour later, Mr. Taft received a standing ovation but the audience gave him a cooler reception than Mr. Fisher. Mr. Taft’s remarks were interrupted with applause four times.

Mr. Taft noted that Governor Voinovich, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, has attracted attention to Ohio by supporting early-learning programs.

“It is my hope to build on that foundation and to move our progress to a higher level,” he said.

Mr. Taft said he supports expanding eligibility for the state health insurance program for poor children, evaluating the track record of children who are in Head Start programs, and boost ing child support collections.

He said that, if elected, he would expect a report on his desk soon after taking office that would outline which counties are doing the best job of helping welfare recipients make the transition to work.

Fisher: Clinton merits censure; Taft: Decision’s up to the House

By Joshua Benton and James Drew
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 4

COLUMBUS — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lee Fisher wants President Clinton to face some sort of rebuke from Congress for the Lewinsky affair.

His opponent, Republican Bob Taft, wasn’t so definite.

Mr. Fisher described the President’s conduct “not only inappropriate, but inexcusable, and literally indefensible.”

He said that a censure or some kind of congressional statement was “necessary,” but that the President should not be removed from office.

“From what I have seen, the evidence does not merit impeachment,” he said.

Mr. Fisher addressed the Clinton issue after speaking to a conference of children’s issues advocates yesterday.

After his own speech to the conference, Mr. Taft declined to say what he believes should happen to Mr. Clinton.

“I’m not a member of Congress,” Mr. Taft said. “In my view, the President has really lost his credibility, lost his ability to lead, but he has to consider very carefully what is best for the country, and that could include resignation.”

“[It is the job of the House] to determine what is the appropriate penalty.”

Dole aids Montgomery, predicts Clinton survival

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 5B

COLUMBUS — Bob Dole thinks his 1996 opponent will survive the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but he wants Congress to follow the procedures outlined in the Constitution to decide President Clinton’s future.

“I think you let the process work,” the unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate said yesterday. “You don’t overturn the results of an election easily.”

Mr. Dole was in Columbus to speak at a fund-raiser for Attorney General Betty Montgomery. Ms. Montgomery, a Republican and former Wood County prosecutor, is running for re-election against Democrat Richard Cordray.

But, not too surprisingly, questions for Mr. Dole focused less on Ms. Montgomery than on the melange of sex, lies, and audiotape that has transfixed the country in recent weeks.

“I know you’re going to ask me a lot of questions about Betty’s record,” he jokingly told re porters, showing the sense of humor he has put on display since his loss to Mr. Clinton.

He pointed out that his apartment in Washington’s Watergate building, No. 112, is next door to Ms. Lewinsky’s No. 114.

“I live in an exciting neighborhood,” he said. “Every 25 years, something exciting happens. Maybe in the next 25 years, Strom Thurmond will move in,” he said, referring to the 95-year-old senator from South Carolina.

When asked a hypothetical question about Mr. Clinton leaving office, Mr. Dole said, “I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

But Mr. Dole noted that with foreign policy crises looming in places such as Kosovo and Russia, it is important that the President be able to concentrate on the affairs of state.

“It’s a period of time that cries out for strong leadership,” he said. “When the President speaks, are people going to listen?”

Web page keeps former Ohioans close to home

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 13

STEUBENVILLE, O. — Calling all Toledoans in Tulsa, Clevelanders in California, and Akronites in Atlanta.

Rick Platt wants you to come back to Ohio.

“This is a great place to live,” he said. “Too many people have left over the years.”

He’s getting his message out to thousands of people, via the Internet.

Mr. Platt runs a web page called Homesick Ohio, designed especially for people who have left the Buckeye State but want to come home.

“Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing, but people from Ohio care a lot about their roots and their hometowns,” he said.

Mr. Platt’s day job is heading Alliance 2000, the lead economic development agency in Steubenville, on the Ohio River. The web site he runs, called RickOhio.Com, is a hobby for him and his two broth ers. It includes information on Ohio politics, sports, and entertainment.

In the “Homesick Ohio” section of the site (located at www. rickohio.com/homesick), Mr. Platt has accumulated web sites of Ohio ans living in all 50 states, and e-mail addresses for 74 former residents who want to talk about their old home state.

He’s also assembled information on various Ohio traditions, from county fairs to high school football, and places on the web to get information about Ohio events, including The Blade’s web site.

It’s all aimed at people who can’t be in Ohio to get that information firsthand. And the numbers seem to indicate that at least some of those former Buckeyes are starting to make the move back. Mr. Platt said he gets about 15 or 20 e-mail messages a week from former Ohioans about how much they want to return.

“In the 1980s, our economy was hurting. People left,” Mr. Platt writes in an open letter on his web site. “My college and high school friends moved all over the country to find work.

“Now, I’m happy to say, they’re moving back. And I encourage them whenever I can.”

More than 5,000 people visit Rick Ohio.Com in an average week. In August, they came from more than 40 countries – indicating how widespread the 1980s Ohio diaspora was.

In interviews via e-mail, many of the site’s visitors said they are doing everything they can to get back.

Bob Wellington left Youngstown in the early 1980s and eventually settled in Florida. But he’s looking to return home, and is using the Internet to do a job search in northeast Ohio.

“We wish to come back to be with family,” he wrote. “When I move back to Ohio, I wonder if someone in Florida will put out a site for homesick Floridians.”

In the meantime, he uses the Internet to keep in touch with family and friends back in Youngstown.

“I look at the small-town Ohio life-style, and realize that is what I want,” wrote Neona McDaniel, a Canton native who lives in Tennessee. “I want my son to grow up knowing his relatives. I want the slow-paced life that comes with small-town living.”

And for anyone who thinks that computers and the Internet are cold and impersonal, there are the words of Susan Kent.

“Boy, did it make me cry!” Ms. Kent wrote of the first time she saw RickOhio.Com. “I’m a big softy at heart, and have been missing home so much lately.”

Ms. Kent, originally from Massillon, O., has lived in Orlando for about 10 years. She said the Homesick Ohio page has been a godsend, letting her keep in touch with her old hometown.

“All the landmarks of my past, I can revisit through him,” she wrote. “If anyone takes Rick’s site away from me, I will really cry!”

Even those who don’t plan on moving back have found the site useful. Jerry Kellison of Santa Ana, Calif., was looking at Rick Ohio.Com one day to see if there were any names familiar from his youth in Cincinnati. To his surprise, listed there was his aunt, who he had not spoken to in years.

“We have `re-met,’ so to speak,” he wrote.

Thanks to the growing ubiquity of the Internet, Mr. Platt’s site reaches across the continent and around the world.

“We do not plan on returning to Ohio, but we are always Bucks at heart,” wrote Jennifer McKinnon, who surfs the Web from her home in Alaska, on a computer with an Ohio screensaver. Homesick Ohio includes links to Ohioans in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, and Guam.

Mr. Platt knows Ohio’s charms well. He’s lived in the state his entire life, and has visited each of its 88 counties at least five times.

And he said he’s very happy he’s been able to reach so many people with the rudimentary tools he uses: a 5-year-old, $800 computer in a spare bedroom.

He hopes his site can help persuade more people to come back home to Ohio. Just as economics played a big part in many ex-Ohioans leaving, the good job market today is encouraging many to return. RickOhio.Com is ready to help them; the most popular section of the site is called Jobs In Ohio, and it points visitors to classified ads and other career resources.

“Getting a job here is the one thing people need most to move back,” Mr. Platt said.

Developers plan to transform High Street, rid its seedy look; Change at the gates of OSU

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page B1

COLUMBUS — Out with the dive bars, in with the aerobics studios.

Out with the nightclubs, in with the fresh produce markets.

If a group of developers gets its way, a stretch of one of Columbus’ most storied streets will be virtually unrecognizable in a few years, with sparkling new businesses replacing blighted buildings.

At least that’s the way they see it. To opponents, it’ll be yuppiedom replacing urban character, and national chains replacing successful mom-and-pop businesses. The battle between the two sides is about to heat up.

The strip – on High Street, around 11th Avenue – is familiar to anyone who has spent time at Ohio State University. It’s just south of campus, and has long been a central student hangout, filled with dark, windowless bars, cheap ethnic restaurants, and funky record stores.

The six-block area is dirty and plastered with graffiti, and boarded up windows are about as common as working storefronts. Although some legendary student haunts are still there, a lot of the buildings are abandoned.

To the rescue, they say, comes Campus Partners, a nonprofit group founded by the university in 1995 to improve the neighborhoods around campus. Since then, one of the centerpieces of the plan for the area has been what they call the University Gateway Center.

It would be a new “destination” retail center the size of several other suburban developments, with 600,000 square feet designed to appeal to students and a broader regional audience. Included would be several large chain stores, as well as some locally owned, and an arts cinema. Above some stores would be office space or housing, and there would be plenty of parking. It would be the first significant investment into the area in years, at a cost of more than $50 million, and would maintain an urban, streetscape feel.

But the plan would require that all the buildings on 7GF1*2acres be torn down. That land houses about 30 local businesses, some of them very much thriving.

“It’s not done lightly, but redevelopment is necessary for the area,” Campus Partners President Terry Foegler said.

Therein lies the debate. Although some of the property owners will willingly unload their land to Campus Partners – Mr. Foegler expects the group will control half of the land by early November – others plan to fight a battle that could get nasty.

“It’s no good,” said Steve Panagiotopoulos, who owns the Greek Village restaurant, which occupies the second story above a now-closed restaurant. “I’ve been here for 30 years, and I don’t want to go anywhere else.”

Mr. Panagiotopoulos is just one of several business owners who say that, while the Gateway Center is potentially a great idea, it doesn’t mean they should be forced to give up their businesses.

“It’s a sad thing,” said Nasir Latif, who owns Firdous Deli and Cafe. “I raised this building like my own son.”

The debate over South Campus has been swirling for years, but it has been somewhat academic until now, because talk of renovation has been just talk, mired in a series of studies. But late last month, Campus Partners issued the draft of its final plan for the High Street project, saying for the first time what it wants to see torn down and what will remain.

The final plan will probably be out within two months. Campus Partners has already begun to buy up the district’s land with OSU endowment money and has started the search for a private developer, who would pick up most of the project’s cost.

Later this year, the group will ask the Columbus city council to declare the entire area blighted and use its eminent domain powers to take control of the land of any unwilling property owners – a process very similar to what the city of Toledo is doing to clear out a North Toledo neighborhood for the new Jeep plant. In Columbus, the land acquisition alone is expected to cost $15 million.

Area merchants are quick to point out that nothing is a done deal, but also argue that the constant talk of redevelopment is responsible for the sorry shape South Campus is in now.

They say that when talk of massive dislocation first surfaced, businesses started not renewing their leases because they didn’t know what the future would hold. And with the constant threat of destruction, patrons started staying away too.

The result, they argue, is the high number of empty storefronts.

“This was a busy place in the ’70s, the ’80s, and the early ’90s,” Mr. Panagiotopoulos said. “Then when Campus Partners started up, everyone started going away.”

He said his business is down 60 per cent from what it was before Campus Partners.

Ryan Clark, manager of the Cycle Tech bicycle shop, is also disappointed with the way that a death sentence has been looming over his “very profitable” store for the last several years.

“The overall plan is a pretty decent idea,” he said, “but the way it’s happening isn’t good. This store has been in the paper as a displaced business, even though the building hasn’t been sold and we’re still open. It’s not good for business and customer confidence, a lot of people jumping to conclusions.”

Mr. Clark said that the decline of the neighborhood will make it easier for Campus Partners to snap up land, as empty buildings sell at lower prices than full ones. One restaurant already has closed and put a sign on its door saying, “We look forward to returning to South Campus upon completion of the redevelopment project by Campus Partners.”

Other area residents are concerned that the businesses that will replace the displaced shops will be too yuppified and pricey for low-budget students.

“There is a realm where people have lots of money and get to buy what they want to, and that’s not a realm I live in,” said Brian Lovely, who works at Magnolia Thunderpussy, the landmark independent record store that has been on High Street for 29 years. “This area has been neglected by people in power for years, but now they see they can make some money off of it, and get rid of the businesses that have been making money and paying taxes for years.”

Mr. Foegler responds, “Any business in this area is going to have students as its main customer base, and no business is going to survive if it doesn’t serve them.”

And while Mr. Foegler said Campus Partners has done a good job of talking with the community and with business owners, at least one business has been left in the dark.

Last week, a man at the counter of an old pizza place he plans to renovate and open in the district within a few months seemed shocked when asked about Campus Partners’ plans to tear his building down. “I don’t know anything about this,” he said. “I’ve never heard of Campus Partners.”

Mr. Foegler said that all affected businesses will receive relocation assistance, and some would be welcome to remain on High Street.

The businesses Campus Partners considers most problematic for High Street, the district’s many bars, would even be welcome on the “21st Century Main Street” they are planning, so long as they are more spread out.

He said – and most business owners in the area agreed – that pumping millions into the area would make for a massive improvement, encourage redevelopment elsewhere in the district, and allow High Street to better serve students, faculty, and the entire neighborhood.

“We’ve got to preserve the urban fabric and make it more attractive to people, more clean and more safe,” he said. “This will make the already-successful businesses in the area even more successful.”

But even those who think redevelopment is needed aren’t always willing to step aside and let Campus Partners have their way with the neighborhood.

“What angers me is that we’re mentioned as eyesores, which just isn’t true,” Mr. Clark said.

Campus Partners says that construction on the Gateway Center could begin in two years; if land owners are willing to fight the eminent domain in court, that could be a conservative estimate.

Mr. Foegler said he doesn’t know if there will be much of a fight from owners. Mr. Panagiotopoulos does.

“I’m ready to fight,” he said. “People should raise their voices.”

Midwest battle site thrives; Tippecanoe and Fallen Timbers too: Parks could be alike

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 6

BATTLE GROUND, IND. — For Toledoans, it’s a familiar story. An army of the young United States clashes with Indians over who will control the Midwest.

And while the Battle of Tippecanoe ended the same way the Battle of Fallen Timbers had a few years earlier – with an American victory – the land’s subsequent history couldn’t be more different.

“This battle is seared in our American memory,” said Cindy Bedell, manager of the Tippecanoe battlefield museum. “From the moment the battle was over, people wanted to preserve this land.”

In 1811, Tecumseh, one of the great Indian leaders, was assembling the last great organized resistance to white expansion east of the Mississippi River.

Convinced that individual tribes would be defenseless against the encroaching Americans, Tecumseh forged a confederation of thousands of Indians from across the Midwest, to provide a united front. He created a capital for the confederacy and based it on a site about seven miles north of present-day Lafayette, Ind.

The site was called Prophet’s Town, named after Tecumseh’s brother, a religious leader who went by the name The Prophet. More than a thousand young warriors were trained there for the inevitable battle.

White settlers in the area were ill at ease with warriors training nearby, and asked Indiana territorial Gov. William Henry Harrison – a Battle of Fallen Timbers veteran – to intervene. He cobbled together 1,000 men and marched his army to just outside Prophet’s Town.

Tecumseh, an eager diplomat, was not at the camp; he was traveling the South recruiting more tribes into his confederation and had warned his brother not to get involved in a battle until their forces were stronger. The Prophet sent representatives to Harrison’s army. They agreed no hostilities would take place that night. It was Nov. 6, 1811.

Harrison’s men camped for the night and prepared for a meeting between the two sides scheduled for the next day. But The Prophet, full of fiery rhetoric, called his warriors together that night and ordered them to fight, promising them that he would use his spiritual powers to make the white man’s bullets useless.

Just before daybreak, the Indians crept to the Harrison camp and attacked. After two hours of battle, the Indian forces retreated. Perhaps a total of 100 men died.

The next day, Harrison led his men to Prophet’s Town and found it abandoned. He and his men burned it to the ground. Tecumseh returned three months later to find his dreams of confederation in ashes, and hopes of stopping American expansion all but gone.

A few years later, a soldier named John Tipton revisited the site and saw some of the graves had been disturbed. He decided the battleground was worth preserving, and bought it. He donated it to the state in 1836.

Since then, the land has never been developed or even farmed. The Indiana state constitution guarantees that the state will provide for its care. Many of the trees that stood silent witness to the battle still stand today.

A “sleepy little museum” and gift shop was on site for several decades, Ms. Bedell said. But after control of the museum passed to the county historical society, their officials started planning changes.

In 1995, a newly renovated museum opened. It does an admirable job of placing the battle in the context of American history of the period, and takes care to give equal prominence to Native American points of view. In its relatively small space, it does a better job of interpreting its subject than dozens of bigger and better known museums.

“We felt it was very important it wasn’t just to glorify the triumph of the white Americans,” Ms. Bedell said.

The battleground is more famous than most in the Midwest because Harrison went on to be president on a campaign that focused on the battle. Students nationwide learn about his campaign slogan: “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!” (John Tyler, Harrison’s running mate, became president when Harrison died only a month into his term.)

Such history draws people here. The museum, despite not being near a major metropolitan area, attracts well over 30,000 people a year, Ms. Bedell said, including thousands of school children.

On a recent weekday afternoon, the parking lot featured license plates from New York and Georgia, and the guest book’s last three days of entries included notes from visitors from New Zealand, Israel, California, Hawaii, and Maryland.

“They’ve done a great job here,” said visitor Jesse Gill, an Atlanta resident who grew up in southern Illinois. “I remembered the battle from history class growing up, and we just saw the sign [on nearby I-65] and decided to stop.”

More people may be joining him. About a mile from the battlefield museum soon will be a larger facility dedicated to history, the Museums at Prophetstown. Scheduled to open in 2000, the complex will be dedicated to three areas: Native American life, American family farms, and prairie life.

Officials there expect to attract half a million visitors a year; if any thing near that is realized, it would mean a surge in battleground visitors.

A few weeks ago, Ms. Bedell was alarmed to learn that the Fallen Timbers battleground – mentioned in a museum display – was up for development. “That’s a heartbreaker,” she said.

But her emotions ran in the other direction when told that the city of Toledo has decided to save the battlefield, perhaps by diverting millions intended for a city baseball stadium. Preservationists used Tippecanoe’s park as a model for Fallen Timbers.

“Oh, that’s just wonderful,” she said. “I knew it could be done.”

Significant sites in Ohio have become mere history

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

Patrick Susmilch works at the birthplace of Rutherford B. Hayes, our nation’s 19th president, in Delaware, O.

He sells beef jerky, cheap cigarette lighters, and cassettes of The Best of Conway Twitty.

Souvenirs on-site come in Regular, Premium, and Super Unleaded.

The Hayes birthplace is now a BP gas station.

“People come by and ask, `Where’s the monument?”‘ Mr. Susmilch, 22, said between customers. “I point out the window” – at the tiny stump of a monument 20 feet away – “and say, `That’s it.”‘

“We always hang our head in shame,” said George Cryder, assistant curator for the Delaware County Historical Society. “People come by and say, `You mean you didn’t save it?’ Well, the community went all out and tried, but there really wasn’t enough interest.”

Back in 1928, Delaware citizens fell about $5,000 short of the amount they needed to buy the house the future president grew up in. All that remains is a small plaque, and the occasional Hayes groupie who drops by.

That plaque stands as a mute reminder of the challenges that face those who want to preserve historic sites. Sometimes it’s because of a lack of money; sometimes it’s because of a lack of interest. But many of Ohio’s most important sites have either been lost over the years, or were saved by the skin of their teeth.

Just south of Toledo is a historic site scholars consider one of the country’s most threatened: the location of the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the 1794 conflict that opened up much of the Midwest to the expanding United States.

While dozens of other important battlefields have been preserved across the country, Fallen Timbers advocates have faced an uphill battle, both in convincing the land’s owner, the city of Toledo, that it needs preservation and in raising the millions of dollars it will take to purchase the land.

Getting together all the money and the necessary forces will take some doing. And if it doesn’t work out, and the land where men died is turned into an office park or strip mall, it won’t be the first time that a critical historic site in Ohio has disappeared.

“There are many important places that have been lost over the years,” said Franco Ruffini, the state’s deputy historic preservation officer. “A lot of the time, there just isn’t the money.”
One of the biggest difficulties, experts say, is that Ohioans are taught to believe that their history simply isn’t that important. They’re taught that history happened back East, not here.

“Ohio sort of gets jumped over,” said Dan Thorp, an associate history professor at Virginia Tech University, who specializes in seeing how American historians treat different parts of the country. “Much of history prior to the American Revolution is taught as if it all happened on the East Coast. And then the next thing taught is slavery.”

Professor Thorp traces the anti-midwestern bias to the late 1800s, when the profession of historian was introduced at the nation’s graduate schools. Those schools – places like Yale, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins – were all on the East Coast, and they taught a view of American history that centered on the Atlantic seaboard.

Being first in the field, those early historians wrote the first history textbooks, and from those hoary, century-old texts descends the bias evident today.

“Ohio and many Ohioans have almost an inferiority complex about their history,” said W. Ray Luce, a former state historic preservation officer, who now has a similar position in Georgia. “Ohio has as much in terms of historic resources as any state in the nation.”

Indeed, Ohio ranks third among states in the number of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, behind New York and Massachusetts. But that fact, and Ohio’s historic abundance, don’t do much to change the opinions ingrained in people’s minds since grade school.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there is some collective feeling of inferiority in the Midwest,” Dr. Thorp said. “In the history books, all that’s important happened in the East, then everyone got on wagon trains and headed for California.”

Take the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Mr. Luce said. “In Georgia, we’re very concerned about preserving all our Civil War battle sites,” he said. “Fallen Timbers was as important as any of those battles. It’s a major, major site in American history.”

But until Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s change of heart last month, the battlefield was stuck in limbo as the city tried to draw industrial and commercial development to the field where dozens of American soldiers and Native Americans died on Aug. 20, 1794.

The mayor last week advanced a new plan to use $5.5 million in state capital improvement money to buy the Fallen Timbers battlefield site. The mayor had said repeatedly that making money was more important to the city’s interests than its historic significance.

Contrast that with Dr. Thorp’s home state of Virginia: “Virginians are hit over the head with history from the minute they’re born. You can’t throw a cat in Virginia without hitting a Civil War site or a Revolutionary War battleground.”

In Ohio, “you’re just taught about all those presidents and the Wright Brothers,” Dr. Thorp said.

Ah, those presidents. The only state that can lay claim to as many homegrown presidents as Ohio (eight) is Virginia. But Virginia can offer up names like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe: revered names all. Ohio can only offer up mediocrities like Hayes, Ulysses Grant, William Howard Taft, James Garfield, and Warren Harding.

Calling Harding mediocre would be one of the biggest compliments he’s received in recent decades. In a 1995 survey of historians, Harding was named the worst president in American history. The main historical debate on his term in office revolves around whether he was corrupt, stupid, or both.

A mere three notches ahead of Harding in the rankings stands Grant; only one Ohioan, McKinley, finished in the top half of the rankings, at 18.

So, at some level, presidential sites in Ohio could be said to be celebrating mediocrity, and some have decided not much is worth celebrating.

Take North Bend, O., near Cincinnati. It’s one of the few places in America that can claim it was home to two presidents: William Henry Harrison and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison.

You might think the village would play up that fact. Nope – all there is to commemorate them is William’s grave and a marker where Benjamin was born. The home was torn down long ago.

Normally, presidents’ homes are preserved simply because a president used to live there. But in Canton, the home of President William McKinley played a role in American history itself. When McKinley ran for president in 1896, he ran his campaign from his home on North Market Street.

Thousands of Americans rode special express trains into Canton from around the nation to listen to McKinley deliver speeches from his front porch, leading to the term Front Porch Campaign.

So, what happened to this home, one of the most historic in Ohio? After Mrs. McKinley’s death in 1907, it was turned into a hospital. When hospital officials wanted to build a new facility on the same spot in the 1920s, they moved the McKinley house to a park.

By the time it was moved, it had fallen into disrepair, and no one in town wanted to pay for its upkeep. In 1935, the city declared it a health hazard, and it was razed.

On the home’s site now sits the monstrous Stark County Public Library, a white modernist building in disrepair only 20 years since its construction. A small plaque at a church next to the library mentions that McKinley once lived nearby.

“You don’t win ‘em all,” said Ron Sterling, executive director of the Canton Preservation Society. “It was a matter of public economics. It’s something that shouldn’t have happened, but it did.”

Roger Bridges, director of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, counts the loss of Hayes’s birthplace – now that BP station in Delaware – as one of the greatest in Ohio. But he’s not sure things would be any different if it needed saving today.

“Historic homes are terribly expensive to preserve,” he said. “What I’m saying is that there’s no economic justification for saving a site. It’s worth saving for the educational value.”

The biggest concern for anyone trying to save a piece of Ohio’s history is usually money, though, and Ohio doesn’t fare as well as some other states on that count.

In some respects, Ohio’s institutional support is great, preservationists say. Individuals have given plenty of support; Ohio has more National Trust for Historic Preservation members than any other midwestern state. The Ohio Historic Society runs the largest state-supported network of historic sites in the country.

But money isn’t as forthcoming as some say it could be. Ohio ranks fourth in the number of federal dollars received for preservation, but in the 30s in the number of state dollars.

“We’re definitely way behind our surrounding states” in state-level funding, Mr. Ruffini said.

His office receives federal money to look into the historic impact of any project that receives federal funding. If a project plans to tear down a building and gets even one federal dollar, his office must check the project first.

Most other states, including Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, have a similar program for projects that receive state money. Not Ohio, though, and Mr. Ruffini said that has led to the demolition of some historic structures that did not apply for federal money.

“There have been some really fine turn-of-the-century buildings that have come down, and our office could not be involved,” he said.

Other states, like Mr. Luce’s Georgia, have programs to provide incentives for historic preservation, including tax credits, easements, and freezing appraisal values. Ohio doesn’t.

“There’s very little in the way of state-based legislation to protect sites. For a state that has as much history as Ohio, it’s certainly behind,” said Amos Loveday, Ohio’s state historic preservation officer.

“We get calls every day from people who would like to rehabilitate a historic property but don’t have the money,” Mr. Ruffini said. “We would like to be able to help, but we don’t have the money.”

But even if money weren’t a factor, other reasons exist why certain sites don’t get preserved. Sometimes, there are reasons some people would like to forget history.

At Kent State University, people have been debating for almost 30 years how to commemorate the events of May 4, 1970, when four students were killed by National Guard troops during a peace protest. The four were shot in a campus parking lot, and cars have continued to park where the bodies fell.

It took a march on the president’s office, 2,000 signatures on a petition, and letters from all four families for the university, earlier this summer, to announce it would close off those four parking spots and commemorate them.

Mr. Bridges said preserved sites related to African-Americans, the labor movement, and industrial history are comparatively rare.

“It’s easier to imagine saving a site where some great white male has lived, a great person by the way we’ve always judged people,” he said.

For example, nothing prominent in Toledo reminds people that the first black major league baseball player played here. Moses “Fleet” Walker was a bare-handed catcher when Toledo had a major league team in 1894. After his career ended, baseball instituted the color barrier Jackie Robinson broke in 1947. But there is no Fleet Walker Stadium, or anything else to remember him.

At the site of Toledo’s Auto-Lite strike in 1934, two people were shot and killed by the Ohio National Guard, called in to fight the plant’s union. But only this year have plans moved forward for a statue to commemorate the event.

In Cleveland, a group of preservationists has been working for several years to save Cleveland’s Hulett ore unloaders, the massive iron dinosaurs that once unloaded cargo from Lake Erie ships.

The 1,600-ton Huletts, invented by a Cleveland native, played an enormous part in the industrial development of the entire Great Lakes region by vastly reducing the time and manpower it took to unload iron ore from ships.

Their owners want to tear them down, and some downtown developers argue that the unloaders – which look like giant praying mantises – won’t fit with the entertainment paradise they’d like to see on the lakefront.

That battle is going on, although Clevelanders may need to settle for the new Browns stadium, whose steel framework is designed to evoke the Huletts.

But the battle over the Huletts shows that preservationists no longer focus simply on old homes.

“It used to be, `We’re going to save this building where George Washington slept, and little old ladies will throw tea parties and give tours,”‘ said Sarah Goss Norman, past president of the Ohio Preservation Alliance. “Now, there’s more maintaining of things that have made life pleasant.”

Preservationists in Ohio have plenty of good news, however. When developers threatened the Serpent Mound, one of the greatest prehistoric sites in the country, preservationists battled back with a legal and public relations campaign and stopped condos from being built near the site.

The renovation of buildings like the Valentine Theatre in downtown Toledo shows the ability of state and local governments to form partnerships and put together the huge financial packages often needed to save a site.

In Cincinnati, the grand old train station, Union Terminal, was empty for decades as the city tried in vain to give the Art Deco structure away when it wasn’t considering tearing it down. But in 1988, preservationists convinced Hamilton County voters to approve a $33 million levy for renovations. Together with private money, that funded an enormous fix-up.

Today, the stunning building houses the the city’s historical museum, its natural history museum, and several smaller collections. Next month, a children’s museum opens.

“It was a white elephant for many, many years,” said Chris Bell-Puckett, who works for the Cincinnati Historical Society Library, housed in the building. “Fortunately, someone saw the historic value.”

Earlier this summer, officials reopened Lawnfield, the home of President Garfield in Mentor, O. After decades of disrepair, the estate has been the subject of extensive renovations.

Evidence suggests that these efforts have the support of Ohioans. In a poll done by the University of Cincinnati and released last month, 823 state residents were asked if Civil War and Indian War battlefields should be developed if it would create jobs.

Only 37 per cent said they should be developed, no matter how many jobs they create. Almost 61 per cent said they should not be touched “if the historic character of sites is threatened.”

For Margaret Parker that’s heartening. Ms. Parker, the head of the Meigs County Historical Society, is locked in a battle to save the site of Ohio’s only Civil War clash, the Battle of Buffington Island. In that 1863 conflict, Union troops defeated Morgan’s Raiders, a renegade Confederate band that had run roughshod into Union territory.

But the land the battle was fought on is owned by a private company, Shelly Materials of Thornville, O. The company wants to turn the site into a gravel mine. Ms. Parker, along with a coalition including U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.) and local townspeople, has been fighting the company through a permit appeals process. The state has received more than 3,000 letters asking the mining to be stopped. But their appeals are coming to an end; mining could begin next month.

Gettysburg fight not over; Tacky tourism, history still are engaged in great civil war

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 7

GETTYSBURG, PA. — It’s become a cliche for journalists to write about “The Second Battle of Gettysburg” everytime there’s some threat to the hallowed battlefield here.

If that were true, they’d be up to the 20th or 30th Battle by now, because this sacred ground has, for the last century, consistently been the target of preservationists’ ire.

They argue, not without cause, that the site of the most important battle ever fought on American soil has been tarnished by mismanagement, garish tourist traps, and a disregard for history.

“There is no question that serious mistakes were made in the placement and construction of facilities at Gettysburg,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington.

And park officials don’t disagree. With a plan announced last month, they hope they can fix the mistakes of the past.

“I think we can vastly improve the experience of visitors,” park spokesperson Katie Lawhon said.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War, the point of the Confederacy’s northernmost advance. After three days of battle, there were 51,000 casualties, 8,000 of them dead.

But ever since, an embarrassing series of missteps have kept the battlefield from being the shrine it could be. Equally to blame are a lack of funds and a lack of taste.

Congress has never provided park officials with money to build a quality visitor’s center or museum. The current visitor’s center was once a private home park officials bought intending to demolish it. When money for a new center was not forthcoming, they decided to use the house itself. The small facility is packed all summer, and no room exists to display the park’s collection of artifacts.

Hidden away in a series of basement and attic spaces are nearly 1 million guns, battle flags, documents, and other items – all in rooms uncontrolled for heat or humidity and without any fire protection. Mold, dust, and the grit that falls from ceilings have ruined some neglected artifacts.

Without much guidance from a visitor’s center, tourists more often have their Gettysburg experience created by questionable tourist “attractions” that fill the void. Not all are interesting and historically respectful.

* Pickett’s Charge, the site of the battle’s bloody final attack, is within convenient walking distance of General Pickett’s Buffet.

* Nearby are “the most beautiful Dioramas ever created of the Civil War” and the “World Famous LINCOLN Toy Train Collection.”

* There are two wax museums: one the “world’s only complete collection of American Presidents and their First Ladies” (Bill Clinton looks like he’s been mistakenly assigned Jimmy Carter’s teeth and is storing nuts in his cheeks for the winter), and the National Civil War Wax Museum, featuring the “fully dimensional, animated” wax Lincoln delivering his address, perhaps the nation’s most famous speech.

Entire stretches of road through the battleground seem dedicated to the proposition that all signs should be created equally gaudy and neon. It seems as if as many monuments have been erected to bad taste as to war dead.

Perhaps most egregious is the National Tower. In the 1970s, on a private plot of land adjacent to the cemetery where Lincoln spoke, Maryland developer Thomas Ottenstein decided he wanted to build a 300-foot-tall tower to provide tourists, at a price, an overhead view of the battlefield. “A classroom in the sky,” he called it. After three years of court battles, it opened in 1974.

Looking like the unnatural spawn of the Eiffel Tower and a junkyard tin shack, it fills the sky from just about anywhere on the battlefield. In the town of Gettysburg, pop. 7,000, it doesn’t just dominate the skyline; it is the skyline. Tower workers sometimes blare loud music from the base to attract tourists; the music is clearly audible in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery next door.

Columnist George Will has said it is “an affront to the living as well as the dead.” Mr. Moe called it “perhaps the most intrusive and obnoxious structure within the boundaries of any national park in America.”

But try as they might, preservationists, government leaders, and philanthropists have not been able to tear it down after more than two decades of trying.

Dozens of other battles, large and small, have raged throughout the park’s history. An intact field hospital was demolished a few years ago to make way for a Wal-Mart. In 1991, misguided bulldozers mistakenly tore up 7.5 acres of Seminary Ridge – the focus of fighting on the battle’s first day – and nearly caused a hill to collapse. The bulldozers were erroneously sent onto the battlefield to reroute a nearby railroad.

“I think we always try to learn from our mistakes,” Ms. Lawhon said.

Last month, the National Park Service released a draft of its plan to fix Gettysburg’s many problems, acknowledging many mistakes in contrite language.

The plan’s centerpiece is the demolition of the current visitor’s center and the building of a structure in a less obtrusive spot, with plenty of room for the park’s collections. The Cyclorama, a cylindrical building built in the 1960s and now considered an abomination, is scheduled to come down.

Much of the battleground would be returned to the condition it was in at the time of the battle, adding or removing trees and fences to bring them in line with the summer of 1863.

New exhibits would be aimed at doing a better job at explaining the battle’s context, something a visitor could leave the park knowing almost nothing about today.

As for the National Tower, the park service has been granted the legal authority to negotiate with Mr. Ottenstein to purchase it and tear it down. Negotiations have been ongoing, and the park has only about $2 million of the nearly $7 million they estimate it will cost to close the deal.

The whole package – not including the tower – would cost $63.5 million, and faces a public review before it can be adopted.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a statement in support of the plan, but cautioned that the details will “deserve close attention.”

“The plan offers the promise of correcting the mistakes of the past,” Mr. Moe said. “I believe we have all learned the hard lessons of those experiences.”

But Ms. Lawhon is confident the park has got it right this time.

“At one time, people probably thought it was a good idea to build a visitor’s center and a parking lot right on the Union battle line,” she said. “Times have changed.”

Final salvos fired in state school dispute; Opponents blast legislature

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 3

NEW LEXINGTON, O. — The coalition that sued the state over the way it pays for its schools will ask the Supreme Court to take control of the system because it believes the General Assembly can’t be trusted to handle it.

“The time to do the job has come and gone, and the job isn’t finished yet,” said Nicholas Pittner, lead attorney for the coalition.

Mr. Pittner made the statement in his closing arguments on the last day of two weeks of school-funding hearings in Perry County Common Pleas Court.

Mr. Pittner, attorney for the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, said he will request that Judge Linton Lewis ask the high court to take several steps:

* Appoint a special master with control over the school funding process.

* Set strict guidelines defining what sort of laws the legislature can pass to reform the system.

* Order the state, on an interim basis, to increase the basic level of funding it guarantees all public school districts.

The increase cited by Mr. Pittner – from $3,851 per pupil each year to $5,051 – could add $2.2 billion in costs annually.

In March, 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the state’s school funding system was unconstitutional, primarily because it was unfair to poor districts by relying too heavily on local property tax revenue. The court gave the state one year to fix the system.

Judge Lewis first ruled against the system in 1994. The hearings are aimed at determining if the state has met its responsibility under the Supreme Court ruling.

Mr. Pittner said the General Assembly has had 17 months to fix the system but has made only cursory changes.

“Without active direction from the court, there’s no reason to believe that the constitutional harm being done will not continue into the future,” he said.

State Solicitor General Jeffrey Sutton painted a different picture for the court, arguing that the state has vastly increased the amount of money sent to local school districts in the last several years, and covers a large part of local districts’ educational bill.

“We have a new, rational system that is fully funded,” Mr. Sutton said. “It is egalitarian and fair.”

In response to the many images of decrepit school facilities that coalition attorneys have used as evidence of low funding, Mr. Sutton said the state needs time to fix problems, and it is unfair to expect everything to be done immediately.

“These changes take time to implement,” he said. “The General Assembly only had one year.”

Mr. Sutton said the call for a special master is premature and unnecessary, declaring that “this case comes down to trust. Should you trust the state? I think it does deserve the court’s trust.”

Mr. Pittner disagreed, saying that the state’s changes, which Mr. Sutton had called “an experiment,” had been based on “junk science” and that they were nowhere near as extensive as the Supreme Court had required.

“Rather than a complete overhaul, we haven’t even washed the windshield,” he said.

Before the closing arguments, the witness portion of the hearings ended much as it began: with House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson on the stand, defending the job she and her legislative colleagues did.

“The output from our schools was not meeting the needs of today’s world,” she said, describing why the General Assembly made the changes it did.

Ms. Davidson was the first witness called when the hearings began on Aug. 24.

The morning session was taken up by cross-examination of William Phillis, executive director of the coalition that sued the state. Mr. Sutton used a line of questioning common to state attorneys throughout the hearings: running through the litany of state funds Ohio has provided to poor districts, and asking if that money is “a positive development.”

And Mr. Phillis responded as many coalition witnesses have: Yes, that’s a lot of money, but it’s not enough.

With the hearings concluded, the next few months will be taken up by verification of the court transcripts and the writing and rebutting of briefs. Judge Lewis is expected to rule early next year, after which the case will be sent back to the Supreme Court.